Metra inching forward on new railcars and locomotives
It's not quite 419 railcars and locomotives, but Metra commuters can expect comfier and more reliable rides on some trains in a few years after officials acted to buy new equipment Wednesday.
An influx of long-awaited cash from the state means Metra will ask manufacturers in the coming weeks to submit proposals for the agency to either buy or lease at least 25 railcars and 10 locomotives.
Modernizing its aged fleet has been a promise of Metra leaders since the agency embarked on a 10-year capital plan in 2014 paid for partly by fare hikes. The intent was to buy 367 new railcars and 52 locomotives.
But last summer the agency dropped the new cars from its plans, blaming the state's budget crisis and lack of a bonding program. "
"We were very disappointed we had to stop" seeking proposals, Chairman Norm Carlson said.
Now, Metra will use $56.4 million in recently released funds from a previous state capital program to help pay for the equipment, plus a $22.9 million surplus from 2016 this year.
Locomotives can cost from $3 million to $8 million, and railcars can range from $2.8 million to $4 million.
The funds will be put toward the new stock, rehabbing current cars and locomotives, an automatic braking system and other projects.
Metra has budgeted $41 million for new locomotives and $25 million for rail cars in its 2017 capital program.
The locomotives could be ready in 2020; no date is estimated for the railcars yet.
The railroad also will acquire seven additional railcars after settling a legal dispute with Sumitomo Corp. over $8.65 million in delays its subcontractor, Nippon Sharyo, incurred in delivering new cars for the Metra Electric Line. The settlement also encompassed a failed attempt by Metra to piggyback onto a railcar contract a Virginia commuter railroad had with Sumitomo.